Three Kings (1999) – Movie Review

Three Kings

Written and Directed by David O. Russell, based on a story by John Ridley
Starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Nora Dunn

My Advice: Matinee.

It’s Iraq, 1991, and the war is over. Soldiers cavort about, drinking and having a good time. When they are faced with an enemy soldier, they ask confusedly if they’re supposed to be shooting people at that moment. None of them have any idea why they were there to begin with, much less why they have to mollycoddle the press to try and keep them happy. However, when three soldiers find a map in an Iraqi soldier’s… ah… nethereye… they become convinced by a disgruntled Captain (Clooney) that it might be directions to a cache of stolen Kuwaiti gold. So they set out on a mission to fake their way into the bunkers, steal the gold, and get back before anybody notices. Easy, right? Right.

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American Beauty (1999) – Movie Review

American Beauty poster

Written by: Alan Ball
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Mena Suvari

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Lester (Spacey) is a man with a problem. His life sucks. He’s forty-two, he’s stuck in a marriage that is the opposite of bliss with his polyurethane wife (Bening), his daughter (Birch) thinks he is an utter loser, and his job is going absolutely nowhere. Then, he meets his daughter’s cheerleader friend Angela (Suvari), an escapee from a Nabokov novel, and the poor man becomes quite smitten. This rekindles Lester’s ambition and galvanizes him to try and find his lost youth–but the question is to what consequence?

Why didn’t I trust my legs to carry me out of the cinema when this film ended? Well, let’s start with the cast. Spacey is outstanding as the epicenter of change, and unless the running gets really crowded really quick, he’s at least got an Oscar nom nailed down–or there’s no justice in the world. Bening is forgiven for In Dreams. The supporting cast is marvelous as well, with the teens Birch, Suvari and relative newcomer Bentley holding their own support beams quite nicely. Also worth noting are Scott Bakula and Sam Robards as Team Jim from next door providing an amusing subplot, which of course leads to a damn serious subplot.

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Stigmata (1999) – Movie Review

stigmata-movie-poster

Written by: Tom Lazarus & Rick Ramage
Directed by: Rupert Wainwright
Starring: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Father Kiernan (Byrne) is a man with a problem. He is an investigator for the Vatican, and his job is to go out and debunk religious miracles. Trouble is, whenever he finds one that he is sure is authentic, the case gets shunted somewhere off into the etrick, largely due to the machinations of Cardinal Houseman (Pryce). Frankie (Arquette) is a woman with a problem. She’s a hairdresser who after receiving a gift in the mail from her mother starts to experience the wounds of Christ, AKA the stigmata. Their two paths cross as they try to figure out why this is happening before the wounds are too much and Frankie gets to presumably meet Christ in the hereafter.

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Stir of Echoes (1999) – Movie Review

Stir of Echoes poster art

Written and Directed by: David Koepp, based on the novel by Richard Matheson
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Zachary David Cope, Liza Weil

My Advice: Matinee

Tom (Bacon) is, as a song once said, an ordinary average guy. He’s got a caring wife (Erbe), a decent neighborhood with good neighbors, and a son (Cope) who talks to dead people. Huh? Too involved to discuss here. Anyway, one night at a neighborly get together, his sister-in-law Lisa (Douglas) convinces him to submit to hypnosis. It works great guns on him, so much so that he starts to see things, specifically glimpses of something bad which happened in the neighborhood’s past. Now he’s got to figure out what some ghost is trying to tell him before it drives him completely around the bend and tears his family apart.

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The Sixth Sense (1999) – Movie Review

sixth-sense-movie-poster

Written and Directed by: M. Might Shyamalan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, Olivia Williams, Donnie Wahlberg

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Willis) is a man with problems. Although widely recognized for his prowess as a child psychologist, he has achieved this level much to the neglect of his wife (Williams), who still loves him nonetheless. Their lives are changed forever when a former patient of his, Vincent (Wahlberg), breaks into their house, accuses Crowe of failing him, and then shoots the doctor. More than a year passes, and the still psychologically scarred Crowe receives a new patient, the young boy Cole (Osment), who exhibits some of the same disorders that Vincent did. Determined not to fail a second time, he tries to assist the obviously tormented boy with his damaging secret.

This is a painfully flawed film–painful because its fine premise, that of a young boy who can perceive the spirits of the dead walking among us, is never given the justice it is due. The pacing is ponderous at best and since we can’t be trusted to recognize some of the more “scary moments,” James Newton Howard is there to give us nice little musical stings just to make sure we jump. Unnecessary and invasive.

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The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Movie Review

blair-witch-project-movie-poster

Written and Directed by: Daniel Myrick & Eduardo Sanchez
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard

My Advice: Don’t Miss It.

In October of 1994, three student filmmakers hiked into the woods in Maryland to film a documentary for Heather Donahue’s senior project. It was to be about the local legend of the Blair Witch, a strange spectral visitor who had apparently haunted the area for decades. The three students were never seen again. A year later, their footage and gear were found buried under the foundation of a hundred-year-old cabin. Seeking answers, their families turned over the film to Haxan Films’ Myrick and Sanchez, who tried to piece together the events that led up to the three students’ assumed demise.

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Lake Placid (1999) – Movie Review

Lake Placid movie poster

Written by: David E. Kelley
Directed by: Steve Miner
Starring: Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Brendan Gleeson, Betty White

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Sheriff Keogh (Gleeson) is a man with a problem. Namely that a fish and game warden just got bit in half on his watch. All the excitement brings not only another warden (Pullman), but a paleontologist (Fonda), and the obligatory half-crazed rich person (Platt). When everybody’s assembled, it’s obvious that whatever is in the lake is really old…and really hungry.

This movie comes from a genre of film that’s kind of hard to get balanced: a fun horror movie. You know what I mean–you have The Exorcist at one end of the spectrum and Army of Darkness at the other. This one strives toward the latter, and to its credit, it makes some large strides. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s read or seen anything having to do with this flick that’s the creature in question is a bloody great crocodile. All of the Stan Winston creature FX are pretty nice to behold, and I was pleased to find that the beast was not only scientifically feasible but explained over the course of the film. What a relief. The humor portions of the film were…well, humorous. Also a welcome change. The dialogue was fast and witty and at no point did the conflicting genres strangle each other to death. Thank David Kelley for this, who manages to make a “When Animals Attack” film worth watching.

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American Pie (1999) – Movie Review

American Pie

Written by: Adam Herz
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Starring: Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Eugene Levy

My Advice: Wait and rent it.

Four young men about to graduate high school decide that they have a problem. Everyone they know, including ubergeek Sherman (Chris Owen), has gotten laid except for them. Throwing down the gauntlet among them, they make a pact to lose their virginity by the night of their senior prom. Now. When a movie’s highlight is advertised to be a young man humping a pie, you pretty much know what you’re in for: the awkward and sometimes funny experience of becoming a sexual being. La la. But don’t expect a well-rounded coming of age film here. Unfortunately, it has two major strikes against it.

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Run Lola Run (1999) – Movie Review

Run Lola Run

Written & Directed by: Tom Tykwer
Starring: Franka Potente, Moritz Bleibtreu, Herbert Knaup, Norbert Von Au, Jutta Hansen

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Lola (Potente) has just gotten a phone call. It’s from her boyfriend, Manni (Bleibtreu), who as a result of a couple of screwups has lost the 100,000 German marks he was supposed to give to his boss. Because he thinks he’s going to be killed when his boss finds out, it’s pretty evident that this is not a typical nine-to-five job he’s just pulled. It’s twenty minutes until the boss is going to show, and unless Lola can do something, Manni is effectively screwed.

The film begins with a kind of slow acceleration, letting you know exactly what you’re in for. After Hans Paetsch, a German orator of fairy tales, sets up the unworldly feel of the film with his narration (which for some reason eerily reminded me of Wim Wenders), the watchman Schuster (Armin Rohde) states essentially “90 minutes. One ball. Everything else is theory.” Then he launches a soccerball into the sky as the milling people form the title of the film. Wild stuff, people. And it’s a perfect setup for the mania that is to come. The film goes for 81 minutes and almost never lets up, while Lola runs about the city trying to save her boyfriend, maneuvering through an almost Joycean 20 minutes, fates and lives being altered in her wake.

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Notting Hill (1999) – Movie Review

Notting Hill movie poster

Written by: Richard Curtis
Directed by: Roger Michell
Starring: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Rhys Ifans, Hugh Bonneville, Emma Chambers

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

William Thacker (Grant) runs a travel book shop in (yes you guessed it!) Notting Hill, and he’s not doing too well. He gets even worse when Anna Scott (Roberts) comes into his store and the two fall in love. But…what’s that you say, you thought this was a romantic comedy?

Well, it’s written by the same guy who did Four Weddings, so you’d expect it to be gut-bustingly funny–which it is. Roberts does a good job portraying the world’s most popular actress and getting her shots in at the media and at stardom in general. Grant is in fine Hugh Grant form, completely gabberflasted at the situation he finds himself in. The supporting cast, just like in Four Weddings, is to be commended, especially Grant’s flatmate in the form of Spike (Ifans), a buffoon’s buffoon. However–and you knew this was coming…

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